NFL Power Rankings: The 0-2 Bengals look like a Super Bowl hangover victim
It made sense if you assumed the Cincinnati Bengals would just pick up where they left off.
The Bengals have a fun set of young players that made a great postseason run. A play here or there, and they'd have been Super Bowl champions. When you have a quarterback like Joe Burrow, you're not supposed to take a step back.
It appears some warning signs were ignored.
The Bengals are off to a rough start to this season. They're the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 0-2 despite being favored by at least seven points in each of their first two games. The losses came to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, who were quarterbacked by Mitchell Trubisky and Cooper Rush. The Bengals offense, which is loaded with talent, turned it over five times in Week 1 and managed one touchdown in Week 2.
There was a telling sequence on Sunday. The Bengals tied the Cowboys 17-17 and the defense forced a punt. Burrow got the ball on his own 8 with 2:13 to go. It was a long way to field-goal range, but quarterbacks like Burrow are expected to win the game there. The Bengals are supposed to be a high-powered offense that can move up and down the field when they need to. Instead, the Bengals went three-and-out, with three completions gaining just 8 yards. The Bengals didn't even do a decent job running some time off the clock; Dallas had more than enough time to get a game-winning field goal.
The Bengals have not been good. They're not getting enough explosive plays downfield, which was a hallmark of their 2021 season. Joe Mixon, a very good back, is averaging 3 yards per carry. The offensive line is being blamed for the 13 sacks allowed in two games, but it's not all the line's fault. The Bengals aren't seeing the return on investment they made into their line this offseason, but Burrow is holding onto the ball too long and that contributes to the problem. And the sacks are a big reason Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins aren't making deep catches downfield.
It was hard to see the Bengals offense being this dysfunctional through two games, but the slow start wasn't totally unpredictable.
The Super Bowl hangover is real, especially for the losing team. It's a long season and it's hard to climb the mountain again. There's a reason only one team since the 1993 Buffalo Bills has made the Super Bowl after losing it the previous season. Of the first 55 teams that lost a Super Bowl, 17 didn't even make the playoffs the following season.
The Bengals might have been especially vulnerable. They were 7-6 at one point last season. They won six of seven after that, but five of the wins were by seven points or less. It's hard to sustain that.
Two weeks into this season, the Bengals look like they were a good but not great team last season that got on a fortunate streak of close wins. The talent is there to turn things around quickly. But this season couldn't have started much worse for the reigning AFC champions. They've already dug themselves a significant hole.
Here are the power rankings after Week 2 of the NFL season:
32. Atlanta Falcons (0-2, Last week: 32)
It's really strange that the Falcons don't use Kyle Pitts in more creative ways. He had the same two-catch, 19-yard stat line in both games. Maybe if they used one of the most talented tight ends in football more, they would have completed that comeback from 28-3 down instead of falling just short.
31. Houston Texans (0-1-1, LW: 29)
Rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. hasn't been perfect but it's clear that the Texans made a really good pick when they took him third overall. As long as Stingley stays healthy he's going to be a very good player. You can already see the potential in his best plays.
30. Carolina Panthers (0-2, LW: 28)
The Panthers' upcoming schedule: vs. Saints, vs. Cardinals, vs. 49ers, at Rams, vs. Buccaneers. At least most of those games are at home, but the Panthers probably won't be favored in any of them. This could turn into 0-7 in a hurry. And it seems like Matt Rhule is already in trouble.
29. Chicago Bears (1-1, LW: 25)
Here's the list of Bears wide receivers who have recorded a reception this season:
Equanimeous St. Brown, three catches for 57 yards
Dante Pettis, one catch for 51 yards
Byron Pringle, one catch for 22 yards
Darnell Mooney, two catches for 4 yards
That's it. Seven catches for 134 yards over two games. One game was played in a crazy rainstorm, but it's still a troubling stat. Mooney in particular needs to get way more involved.
28. New York Jets (1-1, LW: 31)
It should be full speed ahead for Garrett Wilson, and we'll look back at Week 1 and wonder why the Jets weren't featuring him in that game, too. The 10th overall pick of the draft looked great on Sunday, with 102 yards on eight catches. Between Wilson, Elijah Moore and Corey Davis, there's more than enough for Zach Wilson to work with when he returns.
27. Seattle Seahawks (1-1, LW: 26)
The Seahawks offense hasn't scored a touchdown in six quarters. Whatever got into Geno Smith for that first half of the opener against Denver probably isn't coming back. The Seahawks are fortunate the Broncos were terrible by the goal line and mismanaged the game in the opener, because wins are going to be very hard to come by.
26. Tennessee Titans (0-2, LW: 21)
The Titans got blown out by the Bills, and they won't be the last team to get embarrassed by Buffalo. Still, this 0-2 start has been pretty ugly. I'm not sure Mike Vrabel can turn this around. The only positive is the rest of the AFC South might be mediocre or worse.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1, LW: 30)
OK, Trevor Lawrence. That's better. Lawrence missed too many throws in Week 1 and it seemed like an extension of his rookie season. Then in Week 2 he made several big throws, including many off-platform, in a very good win for the Jags. It helps to have Christian Kirk, who is still overpaid but a big addition in the offense.
24. Washington Commanders (1-1, LW: 22)
The amount of explosive plays the Commanders allowed to the Lions on Sunday was troubling. Washington had a really good defense two seasons ago, but that seems to be long gone. They're not going to have a ton of success this season trying to win shootouts.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1, LW: 20)
The main question is how long the Steelers stick with Mitchell Trubisky. The offense has not looked good yet. That's not all his fault, but everyone knows rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett is waiting behind him. The Steelers play at Cleveland on Thursday in what's probably going to be a low-scoring game, and there will be calls for a QB switch if there's another bad outing by the offense.
22. New York Giants (2-0, LW: 24)
The Giants' next two games are against the Cowboys and Bears at home. Is it possible we're looking at a 4-0 start for Brian Daboll? The Giants might not be all that good, but strange things can happen when a team gains some confidence early in the season.
21. Detroit Lions (1-1, LW: 27)
The Lions might have a really good offense. They're averaging 35.5 points per game. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a star receiver. D'Andre Swift is a big-play running back. But what really gives the Lions life on offense is an elite line. They won't keep putting up 35+ points each week, but they will be a lot of fun to watch.
20. Dallas Cowboys (1-1, LW: 23)
Micah Parsons is even better than last season. If he stays healthy, he looks primed to win NFL defensive player of the year. If Cooper Rush plays like he did in the win over the Bengals on Sunday, the defense will keep Dallas in games. Maybe they'll be OK by the time Dak Prescott comes back.
19. New England Patriots (1-1, LW: 19)
DeVante Parker has one catch for nine yards through two games. That probably isn't what the team had in mind when it traded for Parker this offseason. Parker has never been known for his consistency, but his quiet start probably says more about a poor Patriots offense than him.
18. Las Vegas Raiders (0-2, LW: 14)
There should never be another game in which Davante Adams gets two catches and 12 yards. It's not like the Cardinals have a lockdown cornerback. It was simply a failure to not get Adams the ball more, and it's one reason the Raiders took on a truly miserable loss after leading 20-0 at halftime.
17. Arizona Cardinals (1-1, LW: 18)
The Cardinals are confusing. They looked awful for the first six quarters of the season. Maybe even the first seven. They had a crazy comeback against the Raiders that they won in overtime. Does that mean they turned a corner? Or was it just a blip in an otherwise bad start?
16. New Orleans Saints (1-1, LW: 17)
The Saints offense has been bad aside from the fourth quarter against the Falcons and some garbage time against the Buccaneers. They have a combined 13 points prior to the fourth quarter this season. That's not a great trend, and neither was seeing Jameis Winston revert back to forcing interceptions against the Bucs.
15. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2, LW: 10)
The Bengals get the Jets this week, and if that's not a win then there's real problems. But the three games after that are vs. Dolphins, at Ravens, at Saints. The Bengals need to fix their issues in a hurry or this season could get away from them.
14. Indianapolis Colts (0-1-1, LW: 9)
The Colts passing offense clearly isn't going to be very good without Michael Pittman Jr. in the lineup. Hopefully he returns in Week 3. The question is, are the struggles Sunday fully attributable to injuries, or is there a real concern that Matt Ryan is going to have a terrible season?
13. Cleveland Browns (1-1, LW: 13)
Jacoby Brissett was actually pretty good for Cleveland on Sunday. He was 22-of-27 for 229 yards. His only interception came in the final seconds when the Browns had to press for yardage to get in field-goal range. It's not Brissett's fault the Browns defense gave up two touchdowns in the last two minutes, or that the special teams couldn't recover an onside kick. Brissett won't be great but Cleveland will take it if he keeps playing like he did Sunday.
12. Denver Broncos (1-1, LW: 12)
There's no need in piling on Nathaniel Hackett any more; that has been done plenty. It's justified after all the organizational errors through two games. We'll assume that gets fixed, to some extent. What might be more troubling is the offense has had some rough moments. Russell Wilson didn't look comfortable on Sunday. Injuries haven't helped. Hackett the play-caller needs to get better at that aspect as well.
11. Minnesota Vikings (1-1, LW: 11)
Kirk Cousins was pressing and looked awful in Monday night's loss to Philadelphia. We've seen that before from him. It's not a reason to give up on the Vikings being good this season. The Eagles might just be that much better.
10. San Francisco 49ers (1-1, LW: 15)
There's an argument to be made that the 49ers will win more games this season now that Trey Lance is out. We had no idea what Lance was going to do. He could have had a great season, or look like he had barely played in two seasons. We know exactly what Jimmy Garoppolo can do. He doesn't have a high ceiling but he will run the offense. The 49ers are a lot easier to predict going forward. Maybe that's good.
9. Baltimore Ravens (1-1, LW: 5)
The Ravens took a bad loss, but Lamar Jackson was great. He had a perfect passer rating and 118 rushing yards into the fourth quarter, which is remarkable. He's fine. It's the secondary that could be an issue. The Ravens need to get healthy there, and fast.
8. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1, LW: 6)
All the attention this week will be on Justin Herbert and his rib cartilage fracture. Needless to say, the Chargers aren't winning many games if Herbert has to sit out, or if he is limited in any way. He was clearly in a lot of pain on Thursday night, though he still completed two fourth-down passes including a touchdown after the injury.
7. Green Bay Packers (1-1, LW: 8)
Aaron Jones is a really good player, and the Packers were right to admit their Week 1 mistake in not getting him involved more. He was the focal point on Sunday night, which he should be most weeks. It will be interesting to see how the Packers do Sunday against a Buccaneers defense that has been phenomenal this season.
6. Miami Dolphins (2-0, LW: 16)
Well then. Tua Tagovailoa deserves every bit of praise coming his way this week. His 469-yard, six-touchdown game should be a reminder that there should be some patience with quarterback development. Now that he has a coach that believes in him and Tyreek Hill to throw to after a pretty sharp trade, we could see a true breakout season from Tagovailoa. The first two games look pretty good.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (2-0, LW: 7)
The Vikings shut down Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. In Week 2, Jalen Hurts had 333 yards against them in an easy win. If Hurts is showing that he is going to take a big step this season, the Eagles can absolutely make a Super Bowl.
4. Los Angeles Rams (1-1, LW: 4)
Should we focus on how good the Rams looked in taking a 28-3 lead on Sunday? Or how they let a bad Falcons team back in the game and needed a Jalen Ramsey interception to avoid a disastrous loss? Either way, the start to the Rams' Super Bowl defense could be going a lot better through two weeks.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0, LW: 3)
The Mike Evans suspension isn't a big surprise, considering it's the second time he has blindsided Marshon Lattimore and he got suspended for a game the last time he did it. It does leave a huge hole in the Bucs offense, especially if Chris Godwin isn't back. Julio Jones missed Week 2 as well, and now the Buccaneers need him back in a big way.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0, LW: 2)
The Chiefs are doing just fine, but relying more on backs and tight ends in the passing offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster has 89 yards in two games and Marquez Valdes-Scantling has 57. Eventually the Chiefs will need a receiver to emerge as a dangerous option, but this approach is working for the Chiefs so far.
1. Buffalo Bills (2-0, LW: 1)
The Bills have been nearly perfect to start the season. They really could have the best offense and best defense in the NFL this season.